So for them – I have been visiting country dance halls since I was about 5 years old. Growing up in South Texas, that’s what everybody does…or did back in the day. It was a family affair. My mom would go to dance and I would have a great time chasing the other kids across the dance floor, or conversely, being chased, and trying not to get stepped on. I have vague memories of learning to dance, standing on top of some random cowboy’s boots as he shuffled around the hall teaching me the steps, and then trying it out with the boys and girls my own age. I have memories of falling asleep on benches with the base still going strong, and the sound of boots doing the two-step long into the night.
In Jr. High/High-school when I occasionally got to go to the dance halls with my friends, it was always the awkward teenage thing, where boys and girls are on opposite sides, and nobody really dances except the few couples that have already paired off. But you still got to watch the adults dance, and join in on the Cotton Eye Joe.
In college, and after, I never spent a lot of time in the dance halls – I was stuck with a guy that didn’t dance and didn’t like country music (no idea how that happened) but every once in a while I’d go out with girlfriends and we’d have a great time.
The nice thing about country dance halls; and maybe this happens elsewhere, I don’t know, is that there are always a number of old guys around that can REALLY dance. I’ve never been able to determine if they’re hired by the dance hall, or if they just show up, but they wander around and ask the un-partnered ladies to dance. If you’re just there to dance, or you want to improve your skills, these are the guys to find. They tend to be friendly, good at what they do, they’re less likely to grab your ass, and they’re usually happy to show you new dance steps.
Last night at the Grizzly Rose, they even had an actual lesson for about an hour before the band went on. We showed up for the lesson, and boy I’m glad we did. Apparently the traditional steps I learned growing up, all through college, are not what the “kids” are doing these days. Pretty much everything has been changed into country swing – which is fun – but wasn’t what I was expecting, and I definitely needed a refresher. I think I ended up learning at least 3 new dances – the country Cha Cha, the new improved two step, the three step (formerly known as polka) and I got a refresher on country swing. Even with all of the new dance moves, I’d say I still cut a pretty good rug.
I think my partner in crime probably did a better job getting hit on by the guys, but I’m pretty sure I danced with every dance teacher there, and I got several compliments about my ability to follow properly. I must be in better shape than I thought though; normally after a night of dancing I’m sore and tired and ready to go home. I’m pretty sure last night I could have gone for another few hours, and I’m certainly not feeling the aftereffects today.
About the only downside – every dance partner I had insisted on counting the steps out loud throughout the entire piece. Next time, just shut up and dance.